Courting is a funny ritual. One person sees another person and is interested in that other person. It may be a physical appearance or a style of dress or the social level of popularity that attracts one to another. It would stop there until you can get the attention of the other person.
There was a time when the family was the portal to courting. Sometimes families agreed to arrange for a couple to meet each other, under a watchful eye. These meetings had potential for joining the two families but had many restrictions and stipulations.
Courtship is the period in a couple’s relationship that precedes their engagement and marriage. Courtship establishes an agreed relationship of a more enduring kind. During courtship, a couple gets to know each other and decide if there should follow the emotional connections to an engagement. A courtship may be an informal and private matter between two people or may be a public affair or a formal arrangement with family approval.
Official debutant parties were arranged to announce a daughter had become of age and ready to accept attention of suitors.
Traditionally, in the case of a formal courting to engagement, it has been perceived that it is the role of a male to actively “court” or “woo” a female, thus encouraging her to understand him and her receptiveness to a proposal of marriage.
At the predetermined time, the beau would show up dressed in his Sunday’s best with offerings of flowers and gifts. Once introductions to the parents were properly received, they introduced their daughter to the suitor.
The couple would usually sit in the parlor, play instruments or read poetry to each other or perhaps play cards or other games under watchful eyes to maintain proper distance. With acceptable behavior the couple was given more freedom to walk in the garden or perhaps take a rowboat out on the pond. If the interest blossomed, the couple was allowed to attend social occasions, symphony concerts and stage shows but must be home by the assigned curfew hour to limit the hanky-panky.
If the couple seemed satisfactory to each other, the gentleman would still have to ask for ‘the hand’ of the father’s daughter. With the family’s approval, an engagement was announced in the newspaper and a date set for a church wedding.
In America, in the 1820s, the phrase “date” was most closely associated with prostitution. By the Jazz Age of the 1920s, “dating” for fun had becoming a cultural expectation, and by the 1930s, it was assumed that any popular young person would have lots of dates. This form of dating was chaste, since premarital sex was still frowned upon by the social values of the time.
The concept of modern dating was initially seen as frustrating and mocked the moralistic values of traditional courtship. One of the reasons was that parents did not want their children doing what many did during the sexual revolution in the 60’s.
The act of dating is seen to be very temporary, with such acts seeming as if they are “on one day” and “off the other”. A date can be for a particular concert or dance or social occasion or a ‘steady’ is always the date for any event. A ‘steady’ has vowed to be the one for the other, but no engagement to married has been agreed upon. A date might just be for a ‘hook-up’ and nothing more.
Most young people that come into relationships usually have multiple partners before settling down into marriage. Unlike courtships, couples that are on a “date” do not require a chaperone or someone in presence to prevent anything unholy to happen.
With the lack of courted relationships in today’s society, fewer people are getting married without practicing premarital sex. Some couples start families without marriage. Traditional old-fashioned courting routes are still followed for others to start their relationships.
With online dating, individuals create profiles where they disclose personal information, photographs, hobbies, interests, religion and expectations. The user (suitor) can search through hundreds of thousands of accounts and connect with multiple people at once, which give the user more options and more opportunity to find what meets their standards. Online dating has influenced the idea of choice.
Today hundreds of dating sites to choose from and websites designed to fit specific needs. Mobile apps allow users to upload profiles that are then judged by others on the service; one can either swipe right on a profile (indicating interest) or swipe left (which presents another possible mate).
The ritual is still fearful and adventurous to go outside the family to meet someone that maybe a potential love interest. Whether in a bar or a work companion or a chance meeting or a family arrangement, the courting ritual is a fabulous chapter in our lives. Either win or lose, it is the experience most remembered and cherished.
Next week: The art of Sparking.